Throwing in the Towel…

The United States ranks #1 in charitable giving in the world, both in terms of dollars and percentage of GDP.  In 2008, Americans gave over $300 billion, much of which went to other countries.  Most recent in our minds are the relief efforts for the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, and Hurricane Katrina.  We have donated billions to help these countries rebuild and recover from these disasters.  I, and I would assume most people, find these events tragic.  However, I don’t believe that our country, or Americans, or anyone should be donating billions of dollars to help these people.

There simply isn’t enough money available to truly help these people.  Even our hundreds of billions of dollars every year is but a drop in the bucket, a band aid on a bullet wound.  We must allocate our finite resources where they will make the biggest difference, even if it means that today we must make a difficult sacrifice.  Many undeveloped countries are nothing more than collections of famine, disease, and poverty.  And have roots that go deeper than money.

If we can shed this dead weight weighing us all down, holding us all back, we would be free, free to solve tomorrow’s problems rather than yesterday’s.  I think we are at a fork in the road, so to speak.  We must decide if we are going to forfeit tomorrow to drag the rest of the world along, or, instead, take our first steps forward as a new people, with the memories of the old in our minds and their sacrifice in our hearts.

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5 Responses

  1. What then? Do you suggest we just all buy yachts? What really do you think we should better allocate the money?

  2. We could increase our spending on alternative energy research and development by 300x (Source: http://www.technologyreview.com/read_article.aspx?ch=specialsections&sc=biofuels&id=18003)

  3. Wow. To poor, devastated countries I think that it is ridiculous to say that “Even our hundreds of billions of dollars every year is but a drop in the bucket, a band aid on a bullet wound.” These hundreds of billions of dollars help individuals get life-saving treatment, rebuild torn apart countries, and provide necessary relief aid.

    The people who donate are those who do care about others outside of America and who recognize that we live in a larger world. Why do you think that it is fair to contest that these individuals shouldn’t care?

  4. I am with Brooke, I can’t imagine that the billions of dollars really isn’t helping at all. I think that people want to help because it makes us feel better to think that we are making a difference. One of the biggest issues that I face when I help with fundraising is people believing that minimal amounts given don’t help out. However, if a large group of people give a small amount a significant amount of money can be raised. Also, when it comes to giving it is not just about the money it is also about the time and work spent with the project. DO I think we can all save the world, no. But I do believe that it is important to help others who cannot help themselves because if I was in their situation I would appreciate it and be incredibly grateful.

  5. I have often sensed an affinity for libertarian arguments in your posts and comments. Hence, I am somewhat surprised that you don’t see private, charitable giving as a perfect expression of individual liberty. Your key fact is that the US, as a nation of citizens, gives money away voluntarily. We are actually quite low. The UN Development Program has set a goal of 0.7% of GDP for rich nations to budget as foreign aid. This aid is usually tied to economic or social development, as opposed to disaster relief, which is where your charitable giving probably comes in, I suspect. Anyway, two countries, Norway and Sweden, are at that target. USA? 0.19%.

    Now, since our economy is huge, that is the most dollars. But relying on a statistical anomaly is hardly a moral justification for the relative value we place on development.

    Still, I appreciate the sentiment of your post. There could be better allocations of charitable donations.

    I wonder how much of your $300 billion goes directly to churches to fund their operations. We are also a profoundly religious society compared to most rich or developed nations.

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